How dangerous is the Zika virus?

The Zika virus has taken hold in 33 countries, according to the World Health Organisation. Amid growing evidence that the virus is responsible for birth defects the WHO has declared a global health emergency. Is the virus, transmitted by the yellow fever mosquito, a threat to humanity?

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Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Women affected must be able to have abortion

Because the Zika virus is suspected of causing damage to unborn children the ban on abortions in the predominantly Catholic countries of South America should be eased, the liberal daily Sydsvenskan demands:

“Conservative politicians in an unholy alliance with religious forces are behind the opposition to abortion in Latin America. … The UN has asked Brazil to make exceptions in connection with the Zika epidemic and to promote the use of contraception. … The virus is shining a light on the fact that young girls and women in many countries of the world - not just Latin America - still can't decide for themselves whether they want a child or not. … Just think of the Republican presidential candidates in the US. … Or the conservative politicians in Poland.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Panik unwarranted

Humanity is not at the mercy of the Zika virus, the liberal daily Hürriyet Daily News contends:

“This recent mutation in the Zika virus is not part of the endless seesaw battle between viruses and human immune systems. It is just a random event. ... It just has this deeply unfortunate side-effect of damaging the development of human embryos. And these days we have ways of dealing with it. ... Researchers have started working on a vaccine, and in due course, one will almost certainly become available. Another approach may be to target the species that propagate it by releasing genetically modified sterile mosquitoes to reduce the size of the insect population. It will take time, and it may be necessary to use both approaches, but we are not facing a permanent global threat.”

Ilkka (FI) /

People in the West have grown careless

Education is the best protection against the Zika virus, the liberal daily Ilkka writes, nonetheless lamenting the fact that even the well informed in the West often make the wrong decisions when it comes to public health:

“The world is a small place and people travel far. Europe, too, is not protected against the Zika virus, nor of course is Finland. Quickly spreading information about the dangers to people's health will ease fears and enable people to take precautions. Unfortunately the good quality healthcare in the West has prompted people to draw the wrong conclusions, for example as regards the need for vaccinations. A growing number of people are rejecting vaccines and there is the danger that diseases that had already been eradicated will make a comeback.”